Chances are you’ve seen the movie “Armageddon.” You know, the 1998 science fiction blockbuster involving an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Featuring a crackpot team of oil drillers tasked with digging a hole in the asteroid deep enough to plant a bomb to drive it off course.
Although you may not have been entertained or moved by the storyline (or maybe you were, but won’t admit it), you’d be a particularly tough nut to crack if you’re not intrigued by an announcement scheduled for tomorrow at 10:30 AM PDT at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
That’s because a group of NASA scientists and uber-rich investors are going to be launching a new private company that could end up bringing part of “Armageddon’s” plot to life.
What NASA, Google and James Cameron Have in Common
Not too much is known at this point about the new private company, Planetary Resources Inc., as the press release regarding its purpose was pretty vague.
Here’s what we know so far, though.
The company is co-founded by Peter H. Diamandis and Eric Anderson, both proponents of commercial space exploration. Former NASA officials, Chris Lewicki and Tom Jones are signing on as President and Planetary Scientist, respectively.
The company is also backed by an impressive list of private investors and advisors.
This includes Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) CEO, Larry Page, former CEO, Eric Schmidt, and Google Board of Directors founding member, K. Ram Shriram. Along with Ross Perot Jr. and Microsoft’s (Nasdaq: MSFT) former Chief Software Architect, Charles Simonyi.
Sadly, “Armageddon’s” Director, Michael Bay, isn’t involved with the project. But oddly enough, another science fiction director and writer, James Cameron, is on board.
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As far as the company’s main objective, here’s what the press release says…
“The company will overlay two critical sectors – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative startup will create a new industry and a new definition of ‘natural resources.’”
Exactly what resources they’re going to be exploring for has yet to be revealed. And while some are speculating that the company will find a new way to harness solar energy, the consensus at this point is that its main focus will be mining asteroids.
On the Hunt for Raw Materials in Space
This makes sense, considering “the possibility of extracting raw materials such as iron and nickel from asteroids has been discussed for decades,” according to The Wall Street Journal’s Amir Efrati.
Efrati also points out that Diamandis has had his eye on mining asteroids for a while now:
“Mr. Diamandis, a driving force behind the Ansari X-Prize competition to spur non-governmental space flight, has long discussed his goal to become an asteroid miner. He contends that such work by space pioneers would lead to a ‘land rush’ by companies to develop lower-cost technology to travel to and extract resources from asteroids.”
Now, considering the high-profile roster Planetary Resources has as backers, the company will certainly have the funding to make such a business come to life.
But this kind of project would likely take years to develop. Like the creator of Discover Magazine’s Bad Astronomy blog, Phil Plait, says, “If I were being optimistic, I might say something like this could get off the ground in 20 years or so.”
That is, unless Diamandis and his team have something up their sleeves that could jumpstart the process.
Either way, tomorrow’s announcement is certainly going to attract a lot of attention from private investors and the media alike.
Check back on Wednesday for our rundown of the events.